1000 empty Wigan homes could help relieve national housing crisis

More than 1,000 empty houses in Wigan should be used to help solve the national housing crisis, campaigners argue.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 10:33 am
Empty homes
Empty homes

Action on Empty Homes said it is “exceptionally worrying” that more than half a million homes lie unused across England, while tens of thousands of families are living in temporary accommodation.

The campaign group’s analysis of Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show that 1,580 homes in Wigan were not being used as of October, up from 1,281 the year before.

Of these, 1,111 were long-term vacancies, unoccupied for at least six months, and 469 were second homes.

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This means one in every 93 homes in Wigan were out of use – though this was below the average of one in 47 across England.

There were 268,000 long-term empty homes across the country – 19 per cent more than the previous October, the biggest annual increase since 2004.

A further 263,000 are classed as second homes which are not in residential use long-term, and are not charged extra council tax when they are unused.

Action on Empty Homes said that the 531,000 properties without residents should instead offer “vitally needed housing” to the homeless.

Director Will McMahon said: “It can’t be right that in the last four years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes keeps rising. It will be impossible to ‘build back better’ if we keep letting our housing crisis get worse.”

Separate figures from MHCLG show the number of households in temporary accommodation in Wigan is rising. There were 115 households without their own homes as of September, including 70 children, up from 10 in September 2019.

Housing charity Shelter said a new generation of social homes is needed to solve the problem. Chief executive Polly Neate said: “Tackling these empty homes is not an adequate alternative to building more genuinely affordable housing.

“We could fill every one of these properties and we wouldn’t have solved the housing shortage we face.”

An MHCLG spokesman said: “We have given councils powers to tackle empty homes, including the power to take over the management of homes that have been empty for a long period.

“They also receive the same New Homes Bonus for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one.”

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